Ahmad Farjani and the government of Fezzan

Since the fall of former leader Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, the South of Libya has been marked with instability and insecurity. Chadian, Soudanese, and Libyan opposition groups were able to take opportunity of this situation.

The current state of play reminds us of the dire conditions that most Libyan citizens face on a day-to-day basis. Since 2011, many governments have tried to bring back security and stability to the South, without success. But, in early 2019, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, was able to take control of the region. Nevertheless, the LNA failed into putting a limit to war, kidnappings and abuses that were exerted by some armed groups on citizens that live around Sebha and other regions of the South.

Security problems were also part of the reasons why some tribal leaders and notables asked for the constitution of a local body under the name of “The Government of the Fezzan Region”. They aimed at allowing this ruling institution to fulfill the peoples’ basic needs and to address their main demands.

To better understand this situation, we interviewed Ahmad al-Farjani, founder of the movement for a “Government of the Fezzan Region”.


Ahmad Farjani, could you first explain to us what the goals of this new government that you plan to announce are?

Our goals are clear: we want to secure the whole territory of the Fezzan region by freeing it from any of the Tubu groups that work in alliance with the Islamic State. Let me remind you here that this threatening situation has only been rendered possible after the LNA entered the region and led a war on both Chadian Tubus and Chadian opposition groups that had settled in the Fezzan region. Besides, we also want to give back to the citizens of the South all their civil, economic, social, and political rights. We will work on it, even if the price for that has to be the closure of strategic points such as those used for importing goods and those that connect the Fezzan to the eastern and the western parts of the country. We are not threatening anybody, especially since we do believe that we all form part of a one and only Libyan population. But we believe that the Fezzan region can provide a solution for Libya. This is especially true now that we can see the number of people from the East and the West that have paid the price for the ongoing situation. Many people have promoted policies and strategies that were focused on their political personal gains and on taking power with the use of armed force.

Are there any local or foreign actors that agree with your project for a “Government of the Fezzan”?

Sure, people of the South in the region expect the Fezzan region to find a solution to both its problems and the problems of Libya as a whole. We have no contacts with people based outside of Libya, but we are in touch with important people from outside of the Fezzan region.

Are you also defending this idea of a southern government due to the weakness of former governments?

Of course. Weaknesses, blunders, power struggles, the incapacity of the eastern and the western government alike to address people’s needs and demands, as well as the dysfunctions in terms of providing services and guaranteeing security, all motivated the people of the Fezzan to think of alternatives such as the one that we are bringing today. People are acting out of pure dignity, and, by the way, this is the reason why they have given this initiative the name of “The Proud Fezzan Government”.

Some people believe that this government will fail, especially since the security and military situation are already taken care of by an eastern-affiliated body.

By no means do we stand with or against any of the conflicting parties, especially if those ones do fulfill their mission, starting with the taking care of the security situation. That said, it is only after the LNA came in the South that the Islamic State became able to benefit from an alliance with the Tubus and to spread to the region. Before that, there was no presence for the Islamic State in the South. Add to that the “eastern-affiliated structure” that you are referring to clearly has no existence on the ground; we are talking here about a label only, a name, with no real consistency. It is true that the LNA has reached out to the South and has achieved there the mission that it had in mind, but directly after that it withdrew due to circumstances that are hard to understand, while the people of the Fezzan region again faced killings and displacements.

Where do elites and tribes stand with regards to your project? Have you been in touch with any of their representatives?

We do know that many members of the tribes and elites want such a project to take ground. But we haven’t gotten in touch with them yet. Our project for a new government is very recent, while we are still in the process of creating committees that will make proposals to address the needs of all the people of the Fezzan region. We also hope that the creation of a new government will be received positively by the people, but what we hear on this matter is extremely positive.

Can you be more specific and give us examples of some of the founding principles of your project?

Sure. First of all, we believe that we have the right to claim a government for the Fezzan region that will guarantee our security while preserving our rights.

Two: the day warring parties from the East and the West agree with each other, we will stand with both of them, the way we will stand with Libya as a whole. We are not separatists, but we do want to obtain our rights, far from the ongoing conflict in the north.

Our slogan is clear: as I mentioned before, we are with the idea of setting down a “Proud Fezzan Government”.

Lastly, what do you think of the fact that former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has joined your movement?

This is simply not true. Our movement is by no means in touch with politicians such as Ali Zeidan.

Interview conducted by Mohammed Sreit


Security and Stability in Libya: The Way Forward

Compilation of the findings and recommendations discussed during a workshop on “Security and Stability in Libya” held in Tunis on 22 May 2017 by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in cooperation with STRACTEGIA

The ongoing situation in Libya reflects well the depth and the complexity of the country’s multifold crises. At this stage, Libya’s key actors remain far from capable of reaching a durable political agreement, despite intensified regional and international initiatives meant to help and to support them. So far, the meeting between Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Abu Dhabi early May 2017, as promising as it sounded, has not been followed by strong initiatives. Prime Minister Sarraj’s grab on the country may be growing but ongoing tensions and fights in Libya also indicate that finding a solution to the Libyan conundrum remains difficult.

Besides security remaining a main concern in Libya, tribal dynamics, while not new, have also been growing worryingly. Dramatic evolutions in the oil crescent, where Benghazi’s Defense Brigades (BDB), the Libyan National Army (LNA), and their respective allies fought in spring 2017, also indicate how deep and how complex Libya’s problems are. The Tripoli-based Presidential Council, the eastern-based LNA, as well as many alleged poles of power (Bunyan Marsus, BDBs, armed militias, influential tribal leaders, etc.) have taken positions that question the prospects for achieving political national reconciliation.

Ongoing conflicts and their impact on security structures in Libya

Continuing unrest in Libya can be explained by a myriad of factors. Among others, the difficulties the Presidential Council encounters in imposing its will on all Libyan actors decisively limit its ability to guarantee security and stability. Similarly, problems prevail when it comes to identifying who is in charge of “the” army and who are the real military commanders responsible for the security and the stability of the country.

Furthermore tribal, ideological and/or political conflicts have serious consequences on stability, with the role and the influence of external actors – including but not limited to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Qatar – as further factor interfering in the already complex Libyan environment, as highlighted recently with evolutions in Derna for example. Moreover, human trafficking and the smuggling of goods alter both the conditions for the development of Libya’s social and economic perspectives and the citizens’ day-to-day perspectives. Libyans are still faced with a deteriorating economic situation and a liquidity crisis that drastically limits access to cash. In the context of lacking accountability and control, free circulation of arms and weapons favours the proliferation of uncontrolled armed gangs and militias and the increasing role of mercenaries. On the political level, the ongoing fragmentation and all actors’ prioritization of consolidating their own power over achieving security are important spoilers for stability. This is also linked to the allocation of positions within the government based on cronyism rather than merit – a practice that only serves to further erode the trust of the population in the government’s ability and will to achieve positive development for the country.

With this multitude of challenges ahead, quick and efficient solutions do simply not exist. But there is a way of assessing and determining where priorities are. Acting efficiently in Libya requires a focus on key steps. On the level of security forces, this includes efforts to build a strong national army and to form militaries that will have the task of reintegrating militia members into a single national army under the control of a unique official government. Additionally, all groups and communities (including Tubus and Tuaregs) will have to be allowed to be part of national security institutions and to have their political representation guaranteed on the national level. Reforms of the security sector will have to be accompanied by better development plans and policies that would contribute to guaranteeing better perspectives for citizens and address the effects of the migrant crisis. None of these will however be possible without a prior reconciliation between Libyan warring parties (starting with representatives of “the east”, “the west” and “the south” of the country). It is in this context that the international community can contribute to an improved context for stability and development in Libya.

The tribal factor and its consequences for the security sector

While not new, the tribal factor remains an important issue in Libya, due to the fact that historical, political and social elements overlapped and contributed to shaping the Libyan society. Nuances in the influence of tribal structures do exist at the national level – for instance, the west is known for being less tribal than the east and the south –, but overall tribal dynamics remain both part of the Libyan contemporary problems and a possible contributor to solving them.

Tribes present a challenge and are oftentimes counterproductive to efforts of national stabilization when they act on their own, not recognizing any political and/or national authority. As an example, many tribes end up dealing with smugglers and their networks, hence maintaining – be it directly or indirectly – the existence of clandestine migration that presents a destabilizing factor for Libya. As another example, dynamics of retaliation and revenge between different tribes can increase the number of violent clashes and contribute to the emergence of further problems in already tense environments.

On the other hand, due to their political and social influence, tribes can also have an important role in solving Libya’s current crises. Tribes are important and influential actors in many parts of the country, and the authority they have on the people that belong to their “community” makes ‘asabiya (social cohesion) a potential driver for appeasement. Particularly in the context of the political vacuum that prevails in Libya, getting tribes to defuse their mutual tensions and put aside their rivalries can be of great help to overcome societal cleavages and contribute to a stabilization of Libya’s social landscape. The pivotal role of committees of reconciliation (where many important tribal figures intervene), and the way their mediations succeeded in limiting the effects of tribal and clan fights throughout the last two to three years are clear and strong indicators for this important role.

How to foster conditions for security and peace in Libya?

There are many ways security and peace could be fostered in Libya, depending on what priorities are set. Some of these deal with military prospects, others with political decisions. In any case, acting efficiently in Libya requires several cornerstones.

Firstly, the constitutional stalemate has to be overcome, which requires a review of the composition of the Presidential Council and the promotion of certain principles, such as limiting the number of vice-presidents to two. Additionally, the presidential mandate should be set for a limited period of time. Furthermore, the fostering of more transparency in all political processes is a necessary step, as well as the creation of a National Planning Committee that will help overcome Libya’s demographic contradictions, and developing initiatives that help citizens engage in reconciliation efforts. In order to achieve these cornerstones however, additional elements are required, such as putting an end to the interference by others countries whose strategies are causing tensions in Libya, and finding a solution to political and military divisions and the way they are impeding the emergence of a strong army.

The UN can make the difference and create conditions for stability and peace. The track record of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) may be seen critically in Libya by some people, such as those that consider that it has neglected numerous political parties and individuals that represented various ranges of the Libyan society (i.e. many of the parties that had been given official licenses with the end of the rule of Gaddafi). Others also criticize the UN for not having sufficiently worked towards facilitating new elections from which new figures could have better represented the population’s will. Nonetheless Libyans are almost unanimous in saying that UNSMIL is the only institution that can really guarantee a solution for Libya; they just consider that the UN should develop adapted and more adequate strategies that accurately target key problems and include all actors in negotiations. The many positive reactions that followed the announcement of the appointment of new UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame come here as an opportunity for the intergovernmental organization to capitalize on the progress that has been achieved up to now and to act in a way that will allow Libyans to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Solutions are possible in Libya. Some local initiatives have proved successful in contributing to stability and security in Libya. A recent example for this is the Mubadara 53 (Initiative 53), a plan that was launched in Tripoli and that reached a total of 53 Libyan towns and municipalities. The initiative, which encouraged municipal councils and important local actors to develop common initiatives meant to guarantee ceasefires and stability, proved successful. Some experts even consider the Mubadara 53 as a potential alternative to overcome the country’s political stalemate. But targeted and adequate international support is also seen as an important contribution to the sustained success of such initiatives.

Barah Mikaïl

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